2015-01-04

Review: An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on EarthAn Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield quickly became one of my favorite books while reading/listening to it. I decided to go through this book using both audiobook and written word. I chose to listen to the audiobook because I saw that it was narrated by Chris Hadfield himself; I couldn't think of a better way to hear about his experiences and thoughts than with his tone and delivery, his emotion through spoken word. I read along sometimes and often reviewed specific chapters just so I could highlight a passage that had caught my attention.

This book is itself a journey with Chris in becoming an astronaut and, as such, there are many lessons learned along the way. In fact, there are so many bits of life-applicable information, that I can only select a small few to include coherently in this review. For example, Chris presents a useful metaphor regarding "attitude":
In space flight, "attitude" refers to orientation: which direction your vehicle is pointing relative to the Sun, Earth and other spacecraft. If you lose control of your attitude, two things happen: the vehicle starts to tumble and spin, disorienting everyone on board, and it also strays from its course, which, if you’re short on time or fuel, could mean the difference between life and death. In the Soyuz, for example, we use every cue from every available source—periscope, multiple sensors, the horizon—to monitor our attitude constantly and adjust if necessary. We never want to lose attitude, since maintaining attitude is fundamental to success. In my experience, something similar is true on Earth. Ultimately, I don’t determine whether I arrive at the desired professional destination. Too many variables are out of my control. There’s really just one thing I can control: my attitude during the journey, which is what keeps me feeling steady and stable, and what keeps me headed in the right direction. So I consciously monitor and correct, if necessary, because losing attitude would be far worse than not achieving my goal.
I had read one review of this book as being like a dad-talk and, after reading it, I agree. That said, it is not a patronizing lecture; Chris words are encouraging and uplifting. The kind of dad-talk that motivates you and kindles your spirit. His words are far from "I'm an astronaut, literally and figuratively above you." Instead, they are like this passage:
Fundamentally, life off Earth is in two important respects not at all unworldly: You can choose to focus on the surprises and pleasures, or the frustrations. And you can choose to appreciate the smallest scraps of experience, the everyday moments, or to value only the grandest, most stirring ones. Ultimately, the real question is whether you want to be happy. I didn’t need to leave the planet to find the right answer. But knowing what it was definitely helped me love life off Earth.
Reading this book was a wonderful way to transition into the new year. I highly recommend this book and I'm already looking forward to reading it again in the future.

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